Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Health Information Organization
Created by West TCM, Vancouver / Langley Canada
Visit West TCM at their clinical practices; Spence Pentland Acupuncturist in Vancouver, and Ryan Funk Acupuncturist in Langley

Herbal Formulas
Internal Medicine
Tuina Massage
Food Cure
Special Senses
Common Diseases
Practitioner Search
W.H.O. Research
AcuBlog Forum

Search TCM info

Condition Index

Functions of Internal Organs (Zang Fu)

Viewing the body as an integrated whole is the essence of Chinese medical theory. The Zang Fu internal organs theory represents this intricate web of integrating all aspects of the human and its surroundings.

Terminology similar to western medical science is used in the translation of Traditional Chinese Medicine internal organs theory, be sure not to join the two, it is best to try and leave your knowledge of western anatomy behind because the correspondences are few. Chinese Medicine not only sees each internal organ as an anatomical/material structure but also their inseparable connections to emotions, tissues, sensory organs, mental functions, colours, climates/environment, seasons, natural elements, etc.. For this reason both anatomical and energetic/functional internal organ aspects are always considered.


There are 12 main organs, 6 Yin and 6 Yang, & 6 extraordinary:

Yin: Heart, Liver, Lungs, Spleen, Kidneys, Pericardium

Yang: Small Intestine, Gallbladder, Large Intestine, Stomach, Bladder, San Jiao

Extraordinary Yang organs: Uterus, Brain, Marrow, Bones, Blood Vessels, Gallbladder

(click on the above Zang Fu internal organ to get full information)


In Traditional Chinese Medicine the human being is looked at as an integrated whole, therefore interrelationships are of the essence. Since a person depends on the whole being in balance and harmony to achieve optimal health, discussions of the organs on their own would not be enough.


Click here for: Yin (Zang) organ interrelationships


There are 2 types of internal organs: Zang are considered Yin organs, Fu are considered Yang organs. Yang organs are in charge of transforming food and drink into Qi and Blood. They receive, move, transform, digest, and excrete. The Yin organs store the vital substances (Qi, blood, Essence, body fluids) in pure refined forms from which they have received from the Yang organs after they have been transformed. They Yang organs do not store anything, they are filled, perform their functions of extraction of pure essences, and empty waste. The Yang organs can be viewed as the functional aspect of the Yin organs, i.e. the stomach is the functional aspect of the Spleen.


The following are some main aspects of the Zang Fu internal organs interrelationships with vital substances of the body, emotions, tissues, sense organs, and climate:



Zang Fu relationship with the vital substances of the body


The Zang Fu ensure the proper making of, maintenance, replenishment, movement, and transformation of the vital substances of the body.

- Heart governs blood

- Liver stores blood

- Lungs govern Qi & disperse & descend body fluids

- Spleen governs Gu (food) Qi, holds blood in the vessels, and influences body fluids

- Kidneys store Essence and influence body fluids



Zang Fu relationships with tissues


There are energetic/functional relationships between organs and their corresponding tissue, therefore the health of tissues can be seen through the health of the corresponding Zang Fu.

- Heart controls blood vessels and shows its health on the facial complexion

- Liver controls the sinews (tendons) and shows its health on the nails

- Lungs control the skin and show their health on the body hair

- Spleen controls the muscles and shows its health on the lips

- Kidneys control the bones and show their health on the hair on the head



Zang Fu relationships to the sensory organs


The health and wellness of sensory organs rely on the care and nourishment of its corresponding Zang Fu.

- Heart controls the tongue and taste

- Liver controls the eyes and sight

- Lungs control the nose and smell

- Spleen controls the mouth and taste

- Kidneys control the ears and hearing



Zang Fu relationships with the emotions


Qi, the basis for all physiological activities of the body is also responsible for the emotional processes. This concept of emotions directly linked to Zang Fu functioning as an integral whole is of utmost importance to Traditional Chinese medical theory. The health of the Zang Fu organs will effect the emotions, and the emotions will effect the health of the Zang Fu organs when they are excessive and occurs for long periods of time. Treatment of organs therefore can help emotional health, and the treatment of emotions can improve the health of internal organs.

- Heart relates to joy

- Liver relates to anger

- Lungs relate to sadness & worry

- Spleen relates to thinking and worry

- Kidneys relate to fear



Zang Fu relationships to climate and environment


Different climactic factors effect different Zang Fu organ function. Excessive weather conditions for prolonged periods of time can adversely effect internal organ processes.

- Heart is effected by heat

- Liver is effected by wind

- Lungs are effected by dryness

- Spleen is effected by dampness

- Kidneys are effected by cold

Sign-up to recieve
the SAGE Newsletter